Thursday, December 17, 2015

Slip Sliding Away: Changes in Poverty and Near Poverty Populations (2009 vs 2014 ACS Data)

After the Great Recession of 2007-2009 many areas in the country saw rises in poverty rates. Herkimer County was no different. The poverty rate in Herkimer County rose by about a third after that time period, as measured by comparing the 2014 Five Year ACS Estimates with the Five Year Estimates from 2009.

While the US poverty rate rose from about 13.5% to 15.6%, and New York State saw a similar increase, the Herkimer County poverty rate went from 12% to almost 16% of its population.

Poverty does not affect people equally - that is to say, poverty rates when viewed by age groupings vary greatly. Younger age groups have always had much higher poverty rates that older age groups. Poverty rates for people under the age of 25 are often twice that of people, say, ages 35 to 54. This is easily illustrated in the graphic below which shows people in Herkimer County by age group who are in either deep poverty or above deep poverty but still in poverty.

Note a few things...
  • Younger people have overall poverty rates typically two times that of prime working age people
  • Generally the overall poverty rates by age appear to be akin to something of a ski jump, declining as people get older until they reach around age 75
  • "Deep poverty", which means those whose household income is less than half the poverty income guideline,  affects younger people vastly more than older people
Now as I first noted, poverty rates have climbed since the Great Recession. Let's take a look at how they increased within our most current data's age groupings. Above is the 2009 five year estimates; here's the 2014 Five Year ACS Estimates for comparison.

First, note that he percentage of the age groups in poverty is much greater in 2014 than it was in 2009. And, as you can see, the pattern between age groups is similar to what was shown earlier...sort of a "ski jump" look to the distribution. Note that the 18 to 24 year olds' data doesn't show a spike as it did in 2009.

Both the 2009 and 2014 five year estimate distribution of poverty among age groups is very similar to the New York State and the US data. While not showing their data here, the state and national data have very similar distribution patterns among ages as are found in Herkimer County - in 2009 they show a spike for 18 to 24 year olds, and generally they have the ski jump appearance shown above.

But something very different is happening in Herkimer County when it comes to people in poverty, and especially to people near poverty. As I pointed out, poverty rates have risen across the country, and have jumped in Herkimer County from 12% to nearly 16% in the last five years.  I wanted to take a look at how people in "near poverty" fared over the same period.

Near poverty is defined as those at 100% to 150% of the poverty guidelines. There is a great previous post that has a lot of information about this population called Living on the Edge if you want to know more about people in near poverty. Suffice to say that they are often the "working poor" that are struggling to stay afloat fiscally.

 The graph below shows how much change there was between the 2009 Five Year, and 2014 Five Year  estimates for people in poverty, and in "near poverty".

As we saw in the first graphic, poverty rates rose across the country - for the US and New York, the poverty rates rose about 2% points; for Herkimer County it rose around 4%. But note the changes in "near poverty" rates for all three entities. While small increases were seen in the percent of the population that slipped into "near poverty" nationally and in New York (both increased slightly less than 1%), the percent of the population in Herkimer County that are now in "near poverty" dropped by more than 2%. So at the same time as the country and state have seen increases in poverty and near poverty, the county has experienced a substantial increase in poverty but a fairly large decline in the percent of people in "near poverty".

Perhaps a better way to see this is to look at the changes between 2009 and 2014 by age groupings. This last chart shows how each age range has changed in the last five years based on their percentage of people in "near poverty".

Almost ALL of the national and state data by age groupings shows at least marginal increases in the percent of people living in "near poverty" in the last five years. Within Herkimer County, however, there are substantial declines among every age group but ONE.

So does this decline of people in "near poverty" suggest that fewer residents in Herkimer County are now in danger of slipping into poverty? Probably not. To be sure, additional data would need to be examined to determine exactly where those in "near poverty" have gone - have they risen out of this designation? Or have they slipped below the poverty line?